States urged to exempt pulses from VAT and other local taxes

States urged to exempt pulses from VAT and other local taxes and rationalize stock limit to ensure availability at reasonable prices

State Food Ministers meeting draws action plan to check prices of essential commodities 

Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has urged the States to exempt pulses from VAT and other local taxes. It may help cool the prices of the pulses by 5% to 7%. Briefing the media about the deliberations and decisions taken in the States Food and Consumer Affairs meeting held here today, Shri Paswan said that State Food Minister’s conference noticed that, the prices of the specified food items like pulses, sugar, edible oil seeds commodity shoot up abnormally due to hoarding, profiteering and cartelling by traders and middlemen- without any benefit to the farmers. It was pointed out that the traders hoard the stock of a commodity in a bordering State where stock limits are not imposed. Therefore, there is a need that all States & UTs impose and implement stock There should be a logical and scientific formula for stock limits separately in consuming states and surplus states limits and also for millers, producers and importers. so that supply chain mechanism remains smooth and pulses are available at reasonable prices 

It was also recommended that importers of pulses should display stock position on public platforms such as portals of Ministry of Consumer Affairs or States Government portals to bring in more transparency about availability of stock. It was strongly felt that Government agencies should opt for long term supply contracts in place of tenders for time to time import of pulses for building up buffer stock.

Regarding the prices of sugar, Shri Paswan said that he has written to the chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu requesting them to keep a close watch on the release and stock held by sugar mills to ensure availability in the domestic market. He said that production linked export incentive scheme has been withdrawn midway to ensure adequate availability of the sugar in the domestic market. The states have been asked to implement stock limit effectively.

Shri Paswan said the government is effectively using Price Stabilization Fund for creating buffer stock of pulses and onions. So far about 50,000 MT Kharif and about 25,000 Rabi pulses have been procured and 26,000 MT contracted for import for buffer stock. Out of this 10,000 MT have allocated to the States. Requests from other States are awaited for further allocations.

He said that the Centre has further decided to strengthen price monitoring mechanism by including more markets for collecting price data. He said that State Governments have also been requested to set up price monitoring mechanism at their level also to take timely action to ensure availability.

Appreciating the efforts of State Governments for implementing National Food Security Act, Shri Paswan said now 72 crores people across 33 States/UTs have become eligible for wheat at Rs2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg. He said now States should focus better targeting of food subsidy. He said End-to-End computerization of TPDS would certainly help in this venture. So far about 56% ration cards have been seeded with Aadhar cards against the total Aadhar coverage of about 83%. More than 1,15,909 FPSs are automated across the country by installing e-Point of Sale devices, and this count is likely to be increased to 3,06,526 FPSs by March, 2017. About 1.62 crore ineligible ration cards have been eliminated and food grains worth Rs. 10,000 crore have been better targeted.

Shri Paswan said decision was also taken to ensure online allocation of food grain up to FPS within two months in the States where it has yet to be done. So far it is being made in 25 States. States were also requested to expedite preparation for online procurement of food grains by their agencies. Farmers mobile numbers should be registered and their accounts numbers should be taken for direct deposit of system generated cheques. Remaining non-DCP States were requested to take up DCP operations as it would help in saving food subsidy, enhancing the efficiency of procurement and public distribution & encouraging local procurement to the maximum extent thereby extending the benefits of MSP to local farmers.

In order to strengthen storage facilities Government has approved a road map for construction of steel Silos of 100 LMT capacity in the next 4-5 years in three phases for both wheat and rice. Depot-Online has been launched for monitoring the operations in 30 FCI Depots on pilot basis and by July this year all the 554 depots of FCI will be online. Shri Paswan expressed hope that these efforts will result in improving food grain management. He said as decided by the conference State Governments will work in coordinated way to ensure availability of essential commodities at reasonable prices.

Addressing the meeting, Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Union Agriculture & Farmer’s Welfare Minister appreciated farmers and State Governments efforts for ensuring enough food gain production despite drought for last two years. He said recent estimates indicate production during 2015-16 will be more than the last year. Agriculture Minister said that as our country is the largest consumer of pulses, there is need to increase the production of pulses. A scheme for this purpose is being implemented under mission mode, to improve the production of pulses, 50% of the NFSM is being allocated for pulses production. He said that the Government is working on various plans to reduce the cost of agriculture inputs and increase the returns of the farmers for their produce. He also requested the States to develop agri-markets and bring them on-line so that farmers get reasonable price for produce.

After deliberations, the meeting adopted an action plan to improve the availability and to contain prices of essential food items. Salient features of the Action Plan are: -

• Rationalisation of imposition of stock limits

• Streamlining of the price monitoring mechanism to make it more scientific and accurate.

• Utilisation of full potential of the price Stabilisation Fund and States to consider setting up their own PSF

• Notification of Rules under NFSA.

• Implementation of end to end computerisation of TPDS off taking

• The Price Stabilization Fund (PSF) is used to assist Central/State agencies to procure agri-commodities from the farmers at the time of fresh arrivals in market. Assistance is also provided to for setting up State Level PSF. States may consider setting up their State Level PSF for managing the price concern.

• All States and UTs shall implement the End-to-end Computerisation of TPDS Operations and draw timelines for completion of the key activities under the scheme. Online allocation of food grains and automation of the whole supply chain under TPDS has to be implemented immediately. Smart devices e PDS devices have to be installed on all FPS, so that all transactions under TPDS are biometric verified and are shown online in public domain. All this has to be accompanied by setting up of robust grievance redressal machinery up to the district level.

• In a time bound manner all States/UTs must seek the aadhar numbers of the beneficiaries into the database to make it error free and to weed out bogus ration cards. This will also enable portability of the entitlements of the beneficiaries on a regional, State and ultimately on the national basis. More States /UTs must adopt cash transfer model of DBT in manageable areas and then scale it up.

• To further empower the women States /UTs must issue all the ration cards in the name of the eldest woman of the household and wherever cash transfer under DBT scheme is being undertaken, it must transferred in the account only.

• All procuring States/UTs should adopt decentralised procurement (DCP) of food grains by the next Kharif marketing season. This will benefit the farmers ensuring better access to the MSP system.

• All States/UTs should to adopt and implement an online system for management of food grains procurement by the Kahrif marketing season. This will bring in efficiency transparency and facilitate the farmers.

The daylong meeting was chaired by Shri Ram Vilas Paswan, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. Shri Radha Mohan Singh, Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare nalso addressed the meeting. Ministers of Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs of States/UTs and senior officers from the various central ministries and states also attended. 

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